James Lee Willett was born in 1926 in Old Mesilla, New Mexico. His parents were Ewen Chambers Willett and Bessie Brown Willett. He received his elementary education at Burkburnett, Texas, and his secondary education at Coffeyville, Kansas. In 1947, he graduated from Harding College, Searcy, Arkansas, with a Bachelor of Education degree in Bible and social studies. In 1971, he was awarded his Master of Arts degree in music from West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas.
In 1945 James Willett married Nina Spears of Butler, Missouri. Their children are Jimmy Lee (1947), Dwight (1954), Edward (1959), and William Chidowe (1957). Willy is a chosen son from Zimbabwe who came to their home in 1972.
Mr. Willett's employment profile follows: preached and taught at Hedley, Texas (1947-50); preached at Fullerton, Texas (1950-51); taught school at Ballard, Missouri and was a circuit riding preacher (1951-58); taught school at Lordsburg, New Mexico (1958-59); preached at Bayard, New Mexico (1959-61); taught at Lubbock Christian High School in Lubbock, Texas, also chorus director and basketball coach (1961-65); taught at the public school in Tulia, Texas (1965-67); full-time teacher at Western Christian College (1967-87); and half-time teacher at the college 1987-89).
At Western, he has held the positions of vice-principal, dean of students, and dean of student affairs at various times. At the college, he taught Bible, social studies, English, geography and music. Mr. Willett was the first teacher to teach the college music appreciation class. In addition, he directed the chorus, Skylarks, Men's Ensemble, drama (a few years), Sonshine (one year), and coached basketball (1967-84). For many years he sponsored the grade 12 class, the student council, and the yearbook.
In the area of volunteer community service in Texas, Mr. Willett was a deacon of the church in Tulia and a member of the Lion's Club at Hedley. At Weyburn, he has been a deacon of the church (1969-72) and an elder since 1972. Wherever he has lived, Mr. Willett has taught Bible classes for the local congregation since 1947, and he has taught also in Bible camps at Perryville and Spruston Road.
Mr. Willett's boys' basketball team has won the provincials five times (son Dwight was assistant coach in 1980), and has participated in the provincial playoffs without winning another five times.
The college yearbook has been dedicated to him twice (1978, 1989). He was nominated for the Kin Sport Award in Weyburn. In 1986, he received the S.H.S.A.A. Service Award in appreciation for his years of leadership and contribution to the athletic program of his school, the district, and in the province. In 1989, he received a Meritorious Service Award on the occasion of his retirement in recognition and appreciation for 20 years of service to education in the province of Saskatchewan.
His work at Western has been all-absorbing. James Willett considers that he has accomplished more at Western than in all the rest of his life. There is no other way he would have rather spent the past 22 years.